You know that Kelly Clarkson got her start as an unknown singing on a TV talent show, but how about the rest of these celebrities?
Just after the second season of American Idol, in summer 2003, Fox launched a spinoff called American Juniors: American Idol for little kids with big voices. Instead of one winner, five were ultimately chosen and they formed a short-lived singing group. One of those five was Lucy Hale, who went on to star on the popular ABC Family teen soap Pretty Little Liars.
First on radio and then on TV, Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts ran from 1948 to 1958 on CBS and launched the careers of many singers, actors, and musicians who won and who didn’t win. In 1954, a standup comic won. It was Don Adams, who would later star in Get Smart and Inspector Gadget. (He also starred on The Bill Dana Show with the titular comic, who actually wrote the routine that won him Talent Scouts.)
Star Search was a weekend TV staple from 1983 to 1995, with Ed McMahon hosting up-and-coming singers, dangers, comedians, and “spokesmodels” competing for their big break. Many huge stars competed, but didn’t win, including Sharon Stone (spokesmodel, 1984), Drew Carey (comedy, 1988), Justin Timberlake (male vocalist, 1993), and Beyoncé (female vocalist, 1993). The most famous winner is arguably David Archuleta, who won on a 2003 revival of Star Search four years before he’d place second on another talent show, American Idol.
This final one wasn’t a televised talent show, because it was on the air in the 1930s, so it was a radio show. Major Bowes Amateur Hour was a hugely popular show, similar to today’s The Voice or American Idol, although hosted by Edward Bowes, a very serious New York theater manager. In 1935, a New Jersey singing group called the Hoboken Four successfully made it onto the show. Fans called or mailed in their votes, and the Hoboken Four took home 40,000—enough to win first place and a six-month touring contract. Probably the most famous member of the Hoboken Four: Frank Sinatra.
In 2004, VH1 launched a talent search to fill out a revival of the Partridge Family band. The plan was to use the series In Search of the new Partridge Family to lead into a musical-sitcom series. The sitcom didn’t happen, but cast as Laurie, the part originated by Susan Dey: Emma Stone.